Public entitled to transparency

From: Michael Harris, South Cliff

Friday, 27th July 2018, 4:30 pm
Updated Friday, 27th July 2018, 4:34 pm
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Referring to East Sussex County Council, David Tutt in last week’s Herald, described their finances as being ‘in a real mess’.

This will hardly have pleased Eastbourne readers who have for some considerable time suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous reductions and / or curtailment of services.

Despite this, he went on to say ‘the only solution we’ve got is to cut services and put the begging bowl out to government’.

Naturally, he did not make reference to the complicity of the Eastbourne Borough Council in causing further financial problems as a result of grandiose schemes and failure in securing proper fixed price contracts with developers.

The general excuse for items under these headings is that they are ‘capital payments’ and nothing to do with annual revenue.

This does not hold water.

It is tantamount to buying a car or furniture at 0% interest for three years and closing ones eyes as to what will happen then.

Should one take the comparable of a private or public limited company failing to control its finances, incurring expenditure beyond its means and becoming excessively liable under fixed price contracts and then turning to their bankers to rescue them, then I have no doubt as to the expletive response they would receive.

Those responsible should have the decency to resign forthwith and allow future financial affairs to be conducted by qualified business management consultants who would have the expertise required.

In the meantime, the Eastbourne public is entitled to have:-

1. A copy of the latest audited accounts of ESCC.

2. Detailed statements of the salaries, fees, payments in kind and expenses incurred by all councillors.

3. A detailed financial statement of all assets owned which could be sold showing cost and market value.

4. Details of all contingent liabilities existing in respect of potential contracts being negotiated.

5. Detailed financial accounts of the Towner Gallery since inception.

6. The facts behind the under-estimations arising under the projects relating to the Congress Theatre, the Winter Garden, the Devonshire Theatre, the Devonshire Park project and the new Sovereign centre development.

7. Full financial information relating to the new Wish Tower restaurant contract to be run by Bistrot Pierre.

The public is entitled to transparency coupled with full disclosure of the facts.

In the event this information is not forthcoming we will all be able to draw our own conclusions and perhaps consider what other steps may be taken to ensure that further ‘cutting of services’ 
do not take place until this core information is made available.

Currently considerable data is available via enquiries under the Freedom of Information Act and these should be made.

I trust that many of your readers will support the above comments by sending letters to you and that the EBC will, without delay, take space in the Herald to fully provide all the information outlined in 5-7 above.